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Students, colleagues recall educationist John Mason

Mason’s career spanned 50 years, starting at the age of 20 when he joined La Martiniere for Boys as a teacher

Jhinuk Mazumdar | Published 21.02.23, 07:15 AM
The service for John Mason at St James’ Church on Monday.

The service for John Mason at St James’ Church on Monday.

Pradip Sanyal

⚫ A principal who checked on average and weak students in class and pushed them to perform.

⚫ A grandfather who played football with his grandchildren with the sofa doubling as the goalpost.


⚫ A rugby player who played in Calcutta Cricket and Football Club tournaments.

John Mason was remembered by his students, colleagues and family members as they bid farewell to the much-loved English teacher and a principal who made St James’ School one of the “most sought-after schools”.

Mason died on February 17. He was 78.

His career spanned 50 years, starting at the age of 20 when he joined La Martiniere for Boys as a teacher.

At 33, he took over as principal of St James’ School and decided to leave after 14 years in 1992.

When he quit St James’, there was disbelief on the campus. And Mason said: “A time comes in any leadership role when the leader has to move on lest he damages the institution by his real or assumed limitations. One has to make way for others....”

On Monday, Soumen Mundul, who was appointed by Mason as a geography teacher in 1986, said at a memorial service held at St James’ Church: “His tenure saw some radical changes.... It became one of the most sought-after schools. The school gained new heights, not just in academics and extra-curricular activities, but above all in discipline.”

Mundul retired from the school as vice-principal in 2018.

Tributes were paid by Mason’s immediate successor, D.L. Bloud; current principal, Terence Ireland; son Neel Mason; daughter Dia Mason; and a grandson, Kiaan.

Many old boys of the school remembered him.

“I was a weak student but he made sure that I passed with flying colours,” said businessman Azhar Ahmad.

Several former students said Mason had played a key role in shaping their future.

Old boy Firdausul Hasan recounted that Mason would award points to the houses during the morning assembly on Mondays on how well the boys of the respective houses turned out.

“I learnt from him why it is important to be presentable,” said Hasan, a film producer.

Mason was a disciplinarian but students could walk up to him with their requests, as did Hiyat Khan, who was a prefect in Class XI. “My brother was in a local school in Class V and I asked Mr Mason if he could join the (St James’) school. He called my brother for a test,” said Khan.

The service at St James’ Church was followed by the burial of ashes at the Bhowanipore cemetery on Monday.

“At the 150th year of the school, he (John Mason) was a special guest and he would always say that spiritually and mentally he was always in St James’,” principal Ireland said.

Ireland’s first association with Mason was in the BEd classes, when he was a young man straight out of college. Mason had to do a BEd because it was mandatory to have that degree to become principal.

Last updated on 21.02.23, 07:15 AM

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